HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — As West Michigan expects around 400 refugees to resettle in the area this year, a south Sudanese family that resettled from Israel a few months ago, is learning to adjust to the area.
A group of sixth grade students, Braedyn Dykstra, Xander Selvius and Grace Karel, spearheaded an initiative at their school, Hudsonville Christian Middle, to help a refugee family resettle. The school partnered with Bethany Christian Services and the students began fundraising last year to bring the Mayom family to Washington Square in Holland back in March.
24 Hour News 8 spoke with the Mayom family and the students a few weeks after they settled, and since then, the Mayom family has been taking classes, the children have completed school for the year, and the students have visited them to help teach them English, adjust to the culture and offer them friendship.
“I like to see how they grow because from the time that they got here and to now, they’ve grown a lot in their English. We’ve been taking them to the beach. Josephine [the Mayom daughter] likes to go there a lot. I’m just glad they could get here,” said Dykstra.
“It’s just been fun kind of playing with them and at the same time teaching them more stuff that they might not have learned in Israel,” said Selvius. “Our teacher, Mrs. Sietsema, brought these play cards that have English words on them like dog or car or tree and we just kind of read them off and pointed to them. It’s just good to know that we helped the family and they aren’t just out there suffering. We did a lot more than we expected.”
“We thought we could just collect food and clothes and send it to them, but we didn’t think it would be this big like having a family,” said Karel.
The mother of the Mayom family, Flora, was born in Khartoum in Sudan. Her family then moved from Egypt to Israel until they were told they had to leave.
“In Israel, they started rejecting the refugees so we decided to find another place to live. They move a lot of people back to Sudan so even some people that I know, when they went back there [to Sudan], some of their children died probably because of the situation there or because they don’t have food or anything so that makes me see that there is no love because if they loved us, they would keep us in their country and protect us,” said Flora through a translator, Balgis.
Mayom said the transition has been great so far because of all of the help they have received.
“So far there are no challenges before me. People love us so much. People are always there supporting and helping. We are happy. Everything has been taken care of so there is nothing that has been hard for me,” said Flora.
Mayom said she wants her kids to do well in school and learn to be successful in the U.S.A.
“I know that the U.S.A is a good country. As a mother, I always talk to my children for them to be strong, to be successful in their education so that one day, they can be able to depend on themselves and they don’t have to depend on anybody and they can have good things for themselves,” Flora said.
Bethany Christian Services said the hundreds of refugees that are expected in West Michigan this year will mostly settle in Grand Rapids, but due to the shortage of available housing, they are expanding to other areas like Holland as well.
Jado Mayom, 13, completed 8th grade and Josephin,15, will be in 9th grade at Holland High School next year. Kalamal, 6, is going into the first grade next year while Taijouk, 3, has been taking ESL classes. The mother, Flora, and her 18-year-old son, Bruno, completed English classes last week and are looking for jobs to provide for the family.